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Baikonur Man

by Barry L. Stoddard

Against the backdrop of the late Cold War, a tiny American start-up company forged a secret deal to place American scientific payloads aboard the Soviet space station MIR. Born out of sheer desperation after the Challenger explosion and grounding of the US space shuttle program, the agreement was negotiated and approved behind the backs of NASA and Congress, with the help of US government officials inside the Commerce and Defense departments. On a cold gray morning in February 1988, the company founder met with three graduate students and their professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put his plans into action. Baikonur Man, written by one of those students, recounts the subsequent five-year saga of how science, comradery, hardship, drama, and occasional lunacy led to the first American experiments and payloads to fly on Russian rockets.

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